David Sabino
Tuesday July 28th, 2009

In this special just-back-from-a-very-rainy-vacation edition of Diamond Digits, we take a deep look into Mark Buehrle's perfect game and glance back at parts of the careers of the two newest inductees into the Hall of Fame, first ballot inductee Rickey Henderson and last-ballot selection Jim Rice.

Perfect games thrown in major league history after White Sox veteran lefty Mark Buehrle set down 27 straight Tampa Bay Rays in a 5-0 win last Thursday.

Buehrle joined Charlie Robertson as the second Pale Hose performer to reach perfection. The rookie right-hander shut down the Tigers 2-0 on April 30, 1922. The White Sox joined the Indians (Adie Joss and Len Barker) and Yankees (Don Larsen, David Cone, David Wells) as the only teams with multiple perfect games.

Now for the outliers (thanks mainly to Elias Sports Bureau research):

• This was Buehrle's second career no hitter, making him one of just six pitchers with a no-hitter and a perfect game on his résumé. The others are all enshrined in Cooperstown (or will be there soon): Cy Young, Addie Joss, Jim Bunning, Sandy Koufax and Randy Johnson.

• Umpire Eric Cooper was behind the plate for Buehrle's first no-hitter against the Rangers in 2004 and the time of the game was 2:03. The home plate umpire for Buehrle's perfect game against the Rays was Eric Cooper and the time of the game was 2:03.

• It was also the third time that Buehrle faced the minimum 27 batters in a game. He's the only pitcher in the expansion era to achieve that.

• The only other active pitchers to have faced 27 batters in nine innings are Eric Bedard, Josh Fogg, Randy Johnson and Roy Oswalt.

• Four of the last five and five of the last seven perfect games have been pitched by southpaws: Buehrle, Johnson, Wells, Kenny Rogers and Tom Browning. The lone right-handers in the group were Cone and Dennis Martinez.

Stolen bases as an Oakland Athletic by all-time stolen base leader and one of the newest Hall of Famers, Rickey Henderson, who was enshrined in Cooperstown on Sunday.

Henderson played with the A's for parts of 14 seasons, from 1979 through 1984, and then again in 1989 to 1993, 1994-95 and yet again in 1998 -- a total of 1,704 games, second most in franchise history to Bert Campaneris' 1,795. Since he last donned the green and gold in 1998, the A's franchise has gone in a dramatically different direction when it comes to action on the base paths, placing dead last in steals from 1999 until now with just 617 thefts, 168 fewer than the 29th-ranked Red Sox.

Total bases from 1977 through 1986 for Henderson's Hall of Fame classmate, Jim Rice, easily the most in the big leagues over that span.

On the ballot since 1995, Rice was elected in his 15th and final attempt before the Baseball Writers Association of America voters, but it shouldn't have taken that long. In light of the performance-enhancing drug scandals of late, it's again important to judge future Hall of Famers based on their place among their peers, and when it comes to the 10-year period between 1977 and 1986, Rice had few if any peers when it came to hitting. He was the major league leader over that span in hits (1,807), RBIs (1,089), multi-hit games (540) and three-hit games (155). His 303 home runs placed second to Mike Schmidt's 364. During that span, Rice also became the only player in major league history with at least 35 homers and 200 hits in three consecutive seasons (1977-79). Congratulations to both well-deserving superstars.

Matt Holliday, OF, Cardinals and A's

Mark Buehrle certainly gets an A+ for the week, but since we've covered him already, the regular honor, in an unprecedented Diamond Digits move, goes to a multi-team player. Matt Holliday was traded from Oakland to St. Louis on Friday for a trio of minor leaguers (third baseman Brett Wallace, pitcher Clay Mortensen and outfielder Shane Peterson). Holliday left the A's scorching hot, having collected hits in eight of his final 16 Oakland at-bats, including a four-hit, two-home run, six-RBI game on Monday against the Twins (more on that below ...). Making his way to St. Louis didn't seem to cool him off at all, as the longtime Rockie took nicely to his new team, clubbing seven hits in his first 11 at-bats as a Redbird against the defending World Champion Phils. Holliday also chipped in an RBI in each of his first three games back in the NL, giving him a total of 10 for the week, one shy of Justin Morneau's 11. However, Holliday got the overall nod over Morneau and Andre Ethier, not only for his journey, but also for his major-league leading .556 batting average, second-ranked .581 OBP and 1.037 slugging percentage.

Honorable Mention: Shane Victorino, Morneau, Ethier, Buehrle, Jason Kubel, Carlos Lee, Mark DeRosa, Aaron Hill, Garrett Jones, John Lannan, Brett Cecil, Cliff Lee and Mariano Rivera.

Nick Blackburn, SP, Twins

Thanks in large part to Holliday's big game, Nick Blackburn's dream season took a dramatic turn for the worst this week in California. The big right-hander gave up 13 earned runs in just 8 2/3 innings over starts against the A's and Angels, the former of which entered the contest ranked dead-last in the majors with 376 runs scored. Blackburn's ERA jumped from 3.06 (6th in the AL) entering Monday's game to 3.75 (19th in the AL) following a 3 2/3-inning, six-run shellacking against the Angels in Anaheim. His road ERA has also climbed to 4.58 as compared to a 2.67 within the confines of the Metrodome.

Dishonorable Mention: Ryan Sadowski, Gio Gonzalez, John Smoltz, Scott Downs, Bobby Jenks, Jim Thome, Freddy Sanchez, Aubrey Huff, Ronny Cedeño and Bengie Molina.

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